Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said there is "no question'' Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the NFL. He said he's glad the Giants open their regular season against Johnson and the Lions as an early test for their revamped secondary. And he said the Giants always will be aware of where big number 81 goes on the field Monday night.
But will they double-team him like most other defenses?
"At the end of the day, we have bigger corners over here,'' the 6-2 Rodgers-Cromartie said. "You can just line up and see how it goes.''
That's the way the new group of Giants defensive backs will play it, giving a nod of respect to Johnson but not allowing him to change what they do. It's the kind of swag that safety Antrel Rolle has been looking for from teammates since he arrived with the Giants, and in Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III, he appears to have found it.
Rodgers-Cromartie even said he and fellow starting cornerback Prince Amukamara will be stationed on sides of the field rather than having the big free-agent acquisition shadowing Johnson.
"We can definitely just line up each side and just play ball,'' Rodgers-Cromartie said. "We'll just stay on our sides and do what we've been doing all camp, left and right.''
Amukamara said he takes that as a compliment, recalling the early stages of his career. When Amukamara first cracked the starting lineup, Corey Webster often would be matched up against the top threat.
"They finally said, 'OK, you and Prince just stay right and left,' '' Amukamara said. "The message they were telling me was: 'We trust you now, Prince.' ''
The message now is that they trust just about everyone. Amukamara will take the right side and Rodgers-Cromartie the left. And when Johnson goes into the slot? That's where Thurmond will be.
It was Thurmond who noted that most other teams double up their coverage on Johnson. The emphasis was on the word "other.''
"I think we have enough talent out here,'' he said.
Like the Giants, the Lions are learning a new offense. Johnson said they're catching on to it. Of course, it doesn't take a master's degree in game-planning and an offseason of head-scratching to come to the conclusion that the best play might be throwing the football to the 6-5 All-World receiver.
"He's a big guy, a guy who likes to go deep and do the jump ball,'' Rodgers-Cromartie said. "That's my style of play. I play that ball pretty well . . . You know him by the stuff he did. [Matthew] Stafford is definitely going to throw it up to him. You just have to be in the right position and go get the ball before he does.''
Johnson knows the Giants' corners as well as they know him.
"I've played against most of them for the most part, at least the outside guys in Cromartie and Prince,'' he said. "Both of them have pretty good ball skills. Cromartie is a very shifty guy, a very long guy. Prince likes to get his hands on you, it seems like, early in the play.''
Johnson said he prefers to face off against a single cornerback in a game, locked in one-on-one (or one-on-some) coverage. That may be part of why the Giants will not do it. It's also part of why they added Rodgers-Cromartie in the first place. Variety.
"Me and DRC are different corners, so it will be great for us to give him different looks,'' Amukamara said.
"Just like every other team, we're going to be aware of where he is on the field. We know that every quarterback wants to give their playmaker the ball, so we know that's probably going to be the name of the game.''
The Giants think they have their own game now in the secondary, and names don't matter.
"He's the best,'' Rodgers-Cromartie said, "but you have to look at it as another guy you're going against.''